100+ families in 80 Days
We have been abundantly blessed with so many people moving into the RV Park. We have had over 100 families or individuals move into the park since October 2nd with more coming in the next couple of weeks. Today we had to tell several people that there was no room available. We feel so fortunate to be open and to have a space for people to live temporarily or forever. So many people building or buying homes needing a little spot to land. People who have come to our community to work on projects in the Treasure Valley. People who come to be close to loved ones going through big life stages like births or deaths. It makes us so happy to have a safe place for everyone.
I have moments as I walk through the park where I just want to pinch myself. Like when I see a cute little family walking their new puppy. When we had not one but two snowmen built in our play area. When I see father and son play air hockey together. Lately when friendly faces walk in bearing treats for the holidays These moments make me happy.
There are also moments that make me scratch my head. Usually it involves Dog poop. I love love love the dogs, I really dislike unclaimed Dog Poop. Still trying to figure out how to change this one. If you dear reader have a suggestion please let me know!
I guess I wanted to update this blog to share we end the year so different than we started. We began with hope as we broke ground and dug trenches and end the year with a full park and full hearts. Also, with dirt being brought in for our "Pit" as it is affectionately called by all. We hope this spring yields more parking and a beautiful pond. More to come....
Fruits of our Labors
Oh boy! Wow, it has been 2 years since we began this project sitting down with the city of Caldwell at a roundtable meeting to find out if they would be amicable to an RV park being built in their city. After that came the neighborhood meeting, the application and hearing in front of the planning and zoning to seek a conditional use permit to build an RV park in an R-3 Zone. Then came the easement request from the buerau, I can never spell that work. Beureau of Reclamation, working with the Engineer to get plans established, Tearing down the barns, outbuildings, houses, fences and some trees :(. Working with many banks to get the lending arranged, then came the appraisal, then another appraisal. Then we had to rework our engineered plans to include the City Engineer's version of the Storm water system. Finally 1 year ago we began our construction loan but couldn't start ' "building" until we got the new Storm Water system and full plans approved by the City and all her departments. 9 months ago we started digging the first of the trenches. The many, many, many trenches. Our land saw layers of trenches. Sewer, pressurized irrigaition,Storm Water, Water, electrical and finally sprinklers. All criss crossed and creating the infrastructure of our park. We learned that it is warmer in trenches during the cold weather. Each and every day Jason, myself, our four boys and Gunner our golden worked on every aspect of the project we were allowed to touch. Finally we started making above the ground progress with the roads, the waterpipes, the grass, gravel and cement pads. oh, how can I neglect to mention the concrete. My amature crew did half of the concrete pads. If I never see another cement truck it would be okay. Cement is an art and a science and is backbreaking work. Finally the sites took shape while our office also got finishing touches, The boys put on the metal roof, they are pros by now since they put on the roof at our home a couple of years ago. Paint, Trim, shiplap, plank flooring all coming together. We had so much help from family friends and even a few "new friends" Everything from rolling out sod to taking care of my grocery shopping, car pooling my children to and from what school was possible during this pandemic and cheering us along. Then came the surprising day on Oct. 2 When we were given our temporary occupancy permit. Many tears flowed that day. Tears of joy that were soon joined by beads of sweat as we realized we had a lot of work left to do. If you want to know what is more work than building an RV park.....it is starting an RV park business, while running and RV park while still building an RV park. After we got our temporary occupancy permit I told my boys, there is a light at the end of this tunnel! But then In two weeks time we went from 30 applications processed for month to month site rentals to 100 applications, background checks and deposits, mixed in with the surprise overnight guests that i just wasn't expecting this season. I then told my boys after a few 17 hour days that the light at the end of our tunnel was actually a train! But then we got into a rhythm in the office. We are a week away from having the Clubhouse finished, and yet what weighs heavily on my mind tonight is that fact that I feel no closer to having INTERNET for my guests. I don't even have the energy to describe what is happening with my internet. And in all this. We feel so abundantly blessed. We have had the most wonderful people stop in for the night and so many new neighbors we are proud to share a space with. Cancer survivors, heart transplant recipients, families schooling from their RV, one man who is 100 years old, some people starting over, some downsizing, others on a pit stop to the permanent homes that are being built. and several people in town to build our Amazon factory. I can honestly say I have the best people living in our RV park, no other park can touch how awesome our guests are. They are awesome, and gracious and patient. My hope is to continue to the finish line. Which is a park that is a great place for our guests and a community others are proud to call home. If you want to see a drone video of where we are at now take a peak here: https://www.facebook.com/abundantlifervparkcaldwellidaho/videos/733069297291051
Under the ground.
One of our family's favorite movies is Tremors, If you haven't seen this Kevin Bacon Sci-Fi film you are missing out. Info Here One of our oft' quoted scenes is when the two main characters realize that the mysterious "killer" comes from "under the ground". I realize as I type this that unless you have seen the movie you cannot hear Kevin Bacon's voice in your head like I do "it's under the ground!!"
Well that phrase comes to mind every time I go to our RV Park. We have been physically working for the last 5 months solid on the RV park, and yet to the passerby it may not look like much progress. Because all of the work up to this point has been "under the ground!!" I can't tell you how many trenches we have dug and how many ditches I have climbed in and out of.
Now most people hire out for development but that has never been our nature.We have worked alongside our excavator as he laid water, sewer, and storm water pipes, we have dug trenches, laid pipe, put together the pressurized irrigation system, laid electrical conduit and have spent every weekend and most nights working on things under the ground. Finally these last few weeks we had above ground progress.
We now have the office building framed out and plumbing in the office and clubhouse roughed in. We even have windows in the office and walls going up in the Clubhouse. I have trained on our reservation software and ordered the computers. When I walk into our framed office it feels so close to becoming real. Yipeee!! Progress. Visible progress.
Isn't that how it is though? We have been working for the last 18 months straight on the RV park that started as an idea 3 years ago. Sometimes it takes a long time for anyone else to notice progress. Often the progress we make is "underground" without fruits visible to others. Yet, if we persist... eventually we will see the fruits of our labors. So if you are in the " under the ground" stage of any of your projects, Hang in there. Your work will show soon enough.
We also finally decided on a name. We have had several "working" names in the last 2 years. "Cider Mill RV", "Crossroads RV", "Boise Valley RV Park"....... None felt quite right and some had issues infringing on other business names. So after much deliberation and giving up on "RV there yet" ( since it was used in our state already) we decided on.....drumroll please...... Abundant Life RV Park.
The name is meant to remind us of our blessings everyday. One that tells us where we have been and where we are going. It also helps us put into perspective that with spare change in our pockets we have abundance beyond 90 percent of those on the planet. And with abundance comes the ability to share. Something I hope to be able to continue to do with the Non-profit work that is so dear to me.
Are we there yet?
It takes all the restraint I have to not sound like my children on road trips. " Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? This has been the question in our minds as we have moved this project forward. We have this crazy luck. We had to go through 2.5 appraisals before we got the go ahead from the bank. Each time taking at least 6 weeks. I think it is because there are restrictions on who you can go to for an appraisal as a bank, to help ensure we don't get an overinflated market like we experienced before the bubble popped. Also, whenever there are several layers between the people with the questions and those with the answers there tends to be a lag. But I digress. The appraisal of the project and the property was finally finished. The value was not in questions but all the little i's that needed dotted and t's that needed crossed. With the appraisal finished we were finally able to close the construction loan. Yay!!!!!! Unfortunately, and I am not a downer, but the same day we were to sign on the biggest loan of our lives we also found out the city did not accept our engineered plans for the project. So the dilemma becomes do we move forward with the loan that took us 10 months to get, or do we push pause to know how much the changes to the plan will cost before signing on the dotted line. We opted to not hold up the loan process any longer and sign. I wanted to throw up and eat a huge celebratory meal all at the same time.
OH, man, now the real pressure begins. As soon as the project was funded we started tearing down the existing buildings, although we had dabbled in removing out buildings and fences, the houses needed to remain until we actually owned the property. We have purchased a mini excavator from an auction to do this work with plans of selling it when we are done. We figured it would be cheaper in the end then renting it, and would be available all the time... Someone forgot to tell Bessy the mini-escavator about our plans. She has been in the shop more than she has been on the site.
Our family tag teamed the other equipment we rented and we did multiple round trips to the dump, recycling center, and our back yard wood pile. It wasn't until after we tore down the barn and disassembled the big beams ( not my idea) that we found out someone would have paid us big bucks for the old beams, and would have even disassembled it for us. Big money, I can't even say...It makes me ill.
Okay, the buildings were down, and the battle with the city engineering department was in full swing. It all came down to the storm water treatment plan. We wanted to use each rv site with filtered materials to filter the water returning it to the groundwater below, we had adequate filtration and the rate of absorption was good and there was plenty of room before it returned to groundwater. The city finally agreed to this system of filtration, however, they didn't want this filtration to take place within 25 feet of the waterlines. Well if we use each RV site to filter, and each RV site needs waterlines it would be impossible to have the separations. We went several rounds but in the end our option was to change the system or go through a lengthy uncertain process of appealing. We opted to change the system. Currently we estimate it will be at least $50,000 more and we will lose 6 sites which is potential revenue of $30,000 annually. Ouch. We would also lose our orchard trees, the ones I based my decor theme around. Caldwell has many farms and orchards so the interior will be fresh farm. We will still have gardens and chickens but no fresh apples, pears, peaches and the like for a few years.
With the changed plans the city finally approved the engineering of the project. I am working on submitting the buildings for permits but we have already cleared the land, cut the roads, the sewer is finishing any day now and the pressurized irrigation system, which we are doing ourselves is chugging along. We had many saves thanks to a great person at the power company who has expedited our project, including overcoming a 90 day waitlist to have power moved over a canal.
I don't even dare to estimate our opening date, I know I need to so we can start taking reservations, but that is a lot of pressure for a project that has never been on schedule. ( I usually pride myself on having projects on schedule, they say that pride comes before the fall, I think in this case I am being humbled)
So, " Are we there yet?" Not yet, but I am not even threatening to turn this rig around, we are not stopping until we are there!
Before you begin you must begin.
Warning: Post is unedited for my convenience.
It feels like we haven't even begun developing our RV Park and yet we have. Sometimes there is so much you do before you even get to the starting line. For us it started with visits around a card table with my parents and looked like my Dad ( an RV Park consultant, owner, and manager) telling us all about the good and the bad in the RV business. From there the idea trickled into our mind in that special "What if.." section of our brains. You know the section that seems like it is a daydream that will never touch earth. It may have stayed that way had the card games not continued. It would have stayed a dream if day to day reality was a little more palatable. We have worked in construction for over 20 years, Jason doing the hard work and I the paperwork, some residential building and all the inbetween. Of course there was that 3 year stint where he worked out of state and my in between was a little busy raising 4 boys, but that is another story. Jason's work is very physical and pretty much for the last 20 years we have looked at an exit strategy for this owner/operator Drywall Contractor.
The perfect recipe for where we were going was coming together. A trusted advisor, a desire to exit the construction industry, a healthy dose of "we can do anything we put our mind to" and a dash of "what's the worst that can happen?" started us on our search for an RV park to purchase.
We looked close to home, we looked across the country, we looked in the mountains and on the coast, we found several that would likely be a good fit. The problem was Jason and I seemed to have this hidden talent of making RV park owners change their mind about selling usually after doing a lot of due diligence and making an offer. If you have a good RV Park you should hang onto it, so I don't blame them for keeping a good thing.
This is when our insane day-dream morphed from owning and existing RV park to the crazy idea that we could take a bare piece of ground and develop it into a thriving park. Perhaps we needed to nibble on the idea of an established park purchase before swallowing the elephant of developing?
Land is for sale everywhere so you would think property purchase for an RV park wouldn't be too difficult. Good thing we are up for doing hard things. Some communities are friendly to new projects, and others seem to block your every move. ( Like wanting to charge $960,000 for sewer hook up fees alone) The planning and zoning boards we have met with are pretty good to drop clues about whether a certain parcel of land would likely make it to the finish line of the process. With an RV park that is not quite a commercial project, because people stay and sleep there, but not quite a residential project because they come and go finding the right zone and the right parcel was a process of trial and error. We sifted through 5 different cities before finding an amicable one, and then we explored 6 different parcels with trips to planning and zoning before we arrived at 4918/4920 Laster Lane in Caldwell Idaho. ( Ironically this piece of property was originally purchased to develop an RV park but then took a few different paths, fortunate for us.)
This property is 3 miles from the interstate and has a stop light protected turn right to our front door. It is close for the Interstate RV traveler, but far from the noise they hear all day on the road. Heck we are even a stones throw from Camping world, right around the corner from a C-Store, a Car wash, and restaurants. Perfectly wedged between commercial development and residential parcels the property blends nicely between. Because of a uniquely placed canal and some existing trees the property still has a country feel to it.
One of the prohibitive costs to developing land is bringing utilities to the property. This land had water, sewer, trash, and natural gas stubbed practically to the property line. It even has pressurized irrigation and water rights. ( And the cities rates were reasonable for hookup)
In addition to the land being ideally situated there were a few well placed structures on the two parcels. One parcel right near the main road had a 1200 square foot house with a hip roof. The back parcel has a 3000 sq foot steel framed building with utilities and a beautiful concrete floor. It seemed perfectly designed to change these buildings into our front office, and laundry, showers, clubhouse respectively.
Once we were convinced that this was the ideal spot for this project we had to convince the neighbors and city that it was as well. We simultaneously applied for a lot line adjustment to put two parcels into one while applying for a Special Use Permit. The land was zoned for a higher density residential use but we needed a special permit to use it for the purpose of an RV park.
To apply to the city we have to have some sort of rendering of what this project will look like, We also needed to spell out the financial feasibility to make sure a bank would lend us the funds necessary to make this dream into a reality. So preliminary plans were drawn, rudimentary sketches of landscaping submitted, neighborhood meetings were posted and scheduled and I set to work writing up a business plan. Have you written a business plan before? It is a little involved and I wanted to do it well. Good news the bank gave me 5 gold stars when I was done with all my "proof" that this indeed was a sound plan. We also got the green light on our credit, assets, liabilities, down payment, and loan terms.
Funny how I can sum up years worth of work in just a paragraph or two.
This is all ground work that had to be done just to see if we could take the idea from "what if" to " could we?" More to come....